Sunday, March 29, 2009

Week 4 musings: "We can't evaluate e-learning if we don't know what we mean by evaluating e-learning".

Since we were not really required to post some thing for our Week 4 readings (and yes, I am a week behind- but have started with the week 5 tasks, honestly), I'd thought I'd share a paper with you all that I found this morning. Early Sunday morning, and there I was reading about Educational Paridigms (groan) and I suddenly thought- I can't cope so early on in the day with these combinations of words such as Analytic-empirical-positivist-quantitative and Constructivist-hermeneutic-interpretivist-qualitative I did some searching on GOOGLE and came up with the following article- from a Rob Phillips (Murdoch University, 2005)- a publication from the University of Bristol Called Interact- sorry, not sure which one but the link to the document is here. The title said it all for me, and may help those of you who are struggling with getting started on the paradigms and models. As an overveiw, I didn't think it was too bad, and made the mornings readings a bit easier.
"We can't evaluate e-learning if we don't know what we mean by evaluating e-learning". He makes reference to an earlier paper by Reeves and Hedberg (2002), and talks about the first three paradigms that Reeves discusses in what seemed to me this morning, slightly more simpler terms than the review paper (first attempt anyway).


5.4.09 I have just noted that this paper is referenced in the WikiEdProfessional eLearning Guidebook. I still thought it was worth a read! :-)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Week 3 Bits

Week 3: Discussion on Quality and eLearning Guidelines:

The project that I hope to use for the Evaluation is related to quality aspects of a new eLearning course that I am presently assisting in getting up and running here at UCOL. Briefly, the project is an eLearning Solution to a new Short Course in Preparing for and Enhancing your Career (Level 2).

With this course, the students use a 'virtual visit' to a large Company, as a platform for discovering the neccesary skills and experiences that are important as a job seeker. While they 'visit and observe' all the departments in the Company and 'talk' to relevent people, they are also completing an online electronic CV (which will eventually be hosted by the following company, ( The elearning component is called GETSET (the 'Virtual Tour'), and UCOL have created additional materials to make it into a 15 credit Level 2 programme, with material such as Stress Management, how this affects you in the workplace, along with the neccessary Interview Skills. Currently, the GETSET component is used in a f2f situation, with students being stepped through the programme in a traditional classroom environment. However, with the new UCOL programme, the students will be distance students, studying off campus and will be stepping themselves through the GETSET programme. Therefore all the
neccessary guidance and interaction/feedback will need to be included in the form of extra instructions, with tutor support and learning/feedback e-tivities built into the Elearning part of the course.

The end result of this programme, is that students will have a better understanding of what employers are looking for, understand more of their own traits and skills, how they can contribute to a workplace, resulting in the production of a relevent and
current CV, and to eventually have that CV verfied by UCOL (whilst completing the course). Embedded into the course are 3 Unit Standards, relating to Interview Skills, Problem solving and Stress Management.

One of my concerns is that the students may simply scroll too quickly through the virtual Company Tour, just so that they can get their CV up and running, and therefore possibly not engaging in the real learning aspect of the programme.
We also want to them add as many details as they can to their CV, and if they skim through the programme too quickly, some of the subtle learning that we would want occurring may be missed.

So, these are two of the issues that relate to quality in elearning:

1. Is their enough interaction with the students- how will the tutuors know when the students are struggling? How can we get
them to engage fully?

2. Is the extra course material relevent / will the students use it to add to their current experience?

Following on from the e-Guideline that I looked at last week (which I misquoted actually- it was SD 5 I referred to, not SD 4(

Listed under (Students/Learning Design/Good practice) are some guidelines that can be related to the (quality) issues, the two I hope to explore further for this course are as follows:

SD 3:Do students gain knowledge relevant to employment and/or current thinking in their field?

SD 5: "Do students aquire the learning skills for successfully completing the course?"

In the example of my course, if we were evaluating aspects of the course in terms of quality, I'd still ask "Did the use of interactive tools and forums help the student complete the course"?

By asking such questions, we can evaluate the technology-assess the interaction and check that the knowledge gained is relevent by the CV verifcation process (verify the content). If the CV is verifiable- we could say that the intended outcome is acheived...

There is another quideline as well, that is relevent-
ST 9: Do the technologies employed help students successfully meet the learning outcomes?

I would ask- can the students successfully engage and complete the course in an eLearning format with no f2f contact (apart from the "Interveiw" at the end of the course (to verify the CV)?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Week 2 Discussions

1.Why is evaluation important to you and how do you define it?

For me, evaluation is important as it is a reminder that what we are doing is of benefit and allows us the opportunity to consider different options.

My first thoughts lead to the mainly summative evaluation processes that are in place, then I realised, that even though I was already familiar with the ADDIE model, I considered that ongoing formative evaluation can also occur amongst peers in an informal way- perhaps by attending conferences, belonging to online Discussion forums, talking to staff from other Insitutions. I am refering to evaluation of the teaching process/system as well as the course content.

For example, within an online course, an e-activity may be presented in a new way to students as a result of some learning opportunity gained though a shared experience with another lecturer. Evaluation (formal and informal) is also important personally- it can be used to 'pat yourself' on the back, as well as 'allowing room for improvement'.I also was thinking of the efects 'tick box' situation whereby you present the end of course evaluations to the online students, gather the results for the Annual Programme Reporting process, list any outcomes and then add them to the 'Action List' and find, that a year later, no further action was taken because it got
lost in the 'redtape'.

So, during this course, I hope to learn more about evaluation in a 'user friendly' environment.

While listening to the presentation I jotted down the following in response the question "What is evaluation?" ...a review of a process, how well did it suit the 'intended outcome' (purpose), are there areas which can be improved?, did the process result in
'buy in'? will it be reproducable? can it be transferred to another format?

2.What sort of evaluations mentioned on the presentation are familiar to you already and why?

Evaluation processes that were mentioned in the presentation that are familair to me are as follows:

  • paper based questionaires- either handed out in class or posted to students- (this is for ongoing Community Computing classes that are facilitated rather than 'taught';

  • end of course evalutions available to students participating in papers or units online;

  • Annual Student Satification Surveys, -sent out to students who may or may not still be studying online-at the end of the year. Usually sent via email with a web link to follow;

  • focus groups- participation as a staff member on elearning initiatives;

  • discussion forums (as a student on this eLearning Course-in another paper)-evaluating fellow students work e.g webpages;

  • checklists to follow before a Unit is relased to students on an online course.

3.Why is quality important in eLearning?

Quality: For me this is much the same as in a retail environment - would you buy a suit from a Designer who you had heard via word of mouth from friends (who
had previously brought a similar suit) -that he used inferior materials? If you were looking for a product that will last, you probably wouldn't buy it. But if you were
looking for a product that is cheaper and doesn't have to last the distance, then possibly yes, you would consider it.

The analogy for the student wanting a quality course is something like this. They will want a 'quality course' if they plan to do further study, especially at other insitutions. WORD OF MOUTH is very important - a student who has a bad experience will probably do more damage that we realise- students talk and may remember the poor quality aspects longer than we want them to!!!
Quality is perception of value, perhaps something like "am I getting the same treament/value for money in a $300 elearning course as I would in a $1500 f2f class".

In the early days of blended and 'online courses', it could be said that many courses were delivered 'online' as result of the perception that they are more cost
effective. I don't have a specific reference for this, but I think that today- students expect a lot more than just reading their resources on line- they want all the bells and whistles that Web 2.0 technology offers- and that means that the developers and tutors alike have to come to grips with quality tools and good instructional design. I recall looking at some readings from Frank Rennie in the Educational Design for eLearning paper, but can't track them at present.

Quality is also about 'how good is the course'?-'how well does it meet the intended outcome(s)'? (taking into account the context of the measure of quality).What one student calls "good quality"- another may disagree or shun. e.g with elearning, we assume plenty of opportunity for feedback through (for example) forums, etc. A less vocal, or less interactive student, may not perceive the inclusion of this feedback method as a sign of good quality.

I had a look at the eLearning Guidelines (

Listed under guideline SD4 (Students/Learning Design/Good practice) is the following question which I think can be related to quality:

"Do students aquire the learning skills for successfully completing the course?"

In the example above, if we were evaluating this aspect of the course in terms of quality, we'd ask "Did the use of interactive tools and forums help the student complete the course"? So, the first student would say it was 'good'! the second might not think so.

Lots to think about obviously....



Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Hi All

Apologies for the delay. I have been having trouble getting this account (and google mail) working at home. This blog is one I set up Sept 2007 for some PD here at UCOL ( all things related to Web 2.0 technologies), so please ignore any 'posts' prior to this course.....
I work at UCOL along with Heather and Kay, in the School of Business and Computing. I have been at UCOL for ten years now, about 5 years involved on Online Programmes, both as tutor and some development. I am in the middle of a transfer of 3 courses over to Moodle- and on a fast learning curve for Moodle, the behind the scenes things are quite interesting!!! This is my third paper of this course, and it's especially timely for me, with this transfer of courses, I am hoping get a chance to reflect on "best practice' a bit more, because in reality it seems that sometimes the "best practice" gets in the way of " we must have the course up and running by such and such a date". I wonder what the students think of changing learning platforms? I am thinking that my project might be based around this new course platform and the acceptance of the students, especially the things that we can do differently in Moodle.
What do I know about evaluation already ? I'll work on that- however I do know that just because we ask the students to complete an online evaluation at the end of each paper- doesn;t mean they do it. And when it comes to the end of the course evaluations- we have to follow them up. Another point- getting the mix of questions "just right" so that we get meaningful information (which allows for change if appropriate).

Looking forward to getting more 'active' on the course- feels like a slow start so far :-(